Jameswinston: Brian James

Brian James on the difficulties of starting up his men's underwear company alone

After a false start to the business, Brian James went back to the drawing board and came back with some new designs for his male underwear company. He reveals why starting a business has been tough and at time, isolating, but worth the all the hard work. Company name: Jameswinston (Underwear) Company Ltd Website:www.jameswinston.uk.com Founders: Brian James Age: 41 Based: Loughton, Essex Staff Numbers: 1 (rest outsourced) Date started: Oct ’06 Launch

Tell us what your business does:

Makes and sells men’s designer underwear

How did you know there was a market for it?

The influence of hip-hop and ‘metrosexuality’ has lead to an explosion of colour choice for stylish men.  Unfortunately men’s underwear still needs to catch up with clothing variety.

What were you doing before starting up?

I was the director of an IT hardware distribution company with a £6m turnover. When the market changed I decided to leave it with my assets intact in 2003. I set up a new software trading application company which failed due to people being unwilling integrate their systems with an untried and very small new company. I then spent 18 months travelling, spending money watching daytime TV and not knowing what to do before setting up this company.

What planning did you do before you started up?

Spent a long time on internet reading up as much as possible, looked at the main independent successful underwear companies to see why they did well. I travelled to the Paris fashion show to check out suppliers, trends etc.

How did you raise the money?

Savings, re-mortgage. I’ve not yet sought funding but intend to shortly.

What challenges have you faced?

I had one false start to the business- deliberately understated initial designs which didn’t receive a great early reaction especially as they were modelled on silver dummies. This meant I had created a real rod for my own back as an unknown brand and virtually wrote off the first six months. I estimate this cost me about £35,000.

Where is your business based?

Loughton, Essex – but all operations outsourced in UK locations.

How have you promoted your business?

Did leaflet drops, tried a few small retail shops but brand simply wasn’t well formed enough when I first launched. Internet blog sites proved very successful and are a major part of the new strategy.

What’s the impact on your home life been like?

Quite bad as didn’t earn for two years. I relocated so the isolation in a new town and very slow progress has been extremely tough on my partner, but the business needed to be attended to at sporadic times of the week.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Do your research, get your figures right and know as much as possible what you are getting into. If you really have the talent and desire enough of the ‘right’ people will always recognise that at every stage of your journey.

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